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    New Aid for Trade Partnership with the African Union


    International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2007, © International Trade Centre

    A new partnership to develop trade in Africa will back up the efforts of businesses and governments at a time when Africa's trade prospects are looking up.

    The African Union's Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Elisabeth Tankeu, signed an agreement in February 2007 with Patricia Francis, Executive Director of ITC, at the African Union's Geneva office. Diplomats from 40 African countries were present at the signature ceremony.

    The African Union (AU), the successor of the Organization of African Unity, is Africa's premier regional body. Its main aim on the economic front is the creation of a single pan-African integrated market.

    Promoting business development

    The three-year cooperation agreement reinforces the African Union's role in promoting economic development in the region and ITC's role in strengthening the business sector in Africa. ITC will take the lead in activities dealing with the private sector, while the AU will focus on government and policy issues.

    "This agreement represents our shared vision and mutual interest in helping African business to take its place in world markets," noted Patricia Francis.

    Africa is seeing its highest growth levels in decades, with a third straight year of growth over 5% in 2006 in sub-Saharan Africa. Investment is on the rise in many countries. But there are still obstacles to helping a stronger private sector emerge, which is what the partners will address.

    The AU will advise governments on policies to improve cooperation within Africa and with multilateral bodies. It will also reinforce business-government consultations on WTO issues, programmes that give women a greater role in trade and activities in least developed countries. ITC will help African firms and sectors to be more competitive and produce high-demand, high-value products. ITC will assist national trade bodies in identifying export sectors in which countries have an advantage, helping small and medium-sized enterprises improve their management capacity and linking to international value chains. Finally, ITC will reinforce the internal capacities of the AU Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the regional economic community secretariats, in order to accelerate sub-regional and regional integration of the African continent.

    Jointly they will work to put trade at the heart of development strategies.

    For more information, contact Magdi Farahat, Chief of ITC's Office for Africa.